Air-Fried Smoky Tofu

Firm tofu marinated in a savory, smoky sauce and air-fried to crispy perfection. Healthy, gluten-free, 9 ingredients, and packed with plant-based protein!

Tofu is undoubtedly my favorite plant-based protein. Lentils and beans are great too, but I just think tofu is much more versatile. I know there are people who don’t like tofu because it’s so plain, but that’s actually the beauty of tofu. Because it’s so plain it can take on any flavor you want! In Japanese cuisine we even it plain with soy sauce. There are also many different kinds of tofu: soft, firm, silken, frozen, freeze dried. In this recipe we’re using firm tofu and marinating it in a smoky sauce, then air-frying it to crispy, chewy perfection. This tasty tofu recipe is easy, gluten-free, and oil-free! Sound good? Let’s get started.

ingredients

This smoky tofu requires 9 plant-based ingredients:

  • firm tofu: Press the tofu first to remove excess moisture.
  • liquid smoke: This gives the tofu that “smoky” flavor. I do not recommend leaving it out, but if you do then make sure to use smoked paprika.
  • smoked paprika: You can use regular paprika, but you’ll lose some of that smoky flavor.
  • ketchup: You can also use 1 tbsp tomato paste + 1/2 tbsp maple syrup, I just find ketchup more convenient.
  • tamari: You can use soy sauce if gluten isn’t an issue.
  • nutritional yeast: Adds umami flavor.
  • apple cider vinegar: You can use lemon juice instead.
  • garlic & onion: I prefer to grate fresh garlic and onion into the marinade, but you can use garlic/onion powder if necessary. Use 1/2 tsp garlic powder and 3/4 tsp onion powder.
  • I also like to add a pinch of red pepper flakes for spice, but this is optional.

how to make smoky tofu

  1. Press the tofu to remove excess moisture. You can either use a tofu press, or create a makeshift tofu press (see how in next paragraph).
  2. Mix together marinade ingredients and pour over tofu. Let the tofu marinate at least 1 hour, and flip/gently shake the tofu halfway through to coat all sides.
  3. When you’re ready to cook the tofu, preheat your air fryer to 350°F and cook 10-15 minutes, shaking halfway through, until crispy and golden.

how to press tofu

If you don’t have a tofu press, you can wrap the tofu in a kitchen towel or paper towel, place in between 2 plates, and place a heavy object (such as a bowl or cutting board) on top of the top plate. Let the tofu sit for at least 30 minutes. Make sure the bottom plate has a rim so the water released from the tofu doesn’t spill over.

cooking tips

If you don’t have time to press the tofu, you can technically skip this step but the tofu will not be as flavorful. To quickly remove some of the moisture, microwave the tofu on a plate for 1-2 minutes. Drain the water leftover on the plate.

Different air fryers work slightly differently, so if the tofu isn’t crispy after 10 minutes, continue cooking and check every minute as it can quickly burn.

If you don’t have an air fryer, you can also try baking the tofu. I haven’t personally tested it so I can’t give accurate cooking times, but I would bake at 350°F, check after 10 minutes and if the bottom is crisped/browned, flip the tofu and continue baking another 10 minutes (or however long it takes for the first side to brown). Make sure you use a greased baking sheet, otherwise the tofu will stick.

how to serve smoky tofu

This smoky tofu is the perfect addition to any buddha bowl, salad, wrap, or when you just need a little extra protein to round out your meal. It’s also a tasty snack all on its own! Personally, I love adding it to spring rolls, salads, and mac & cheeze.

how to store smoky tofu

This tofu should be stored in a sealed container in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat it again, put it back in the air fryer for 3-5 minutes to crisp it up, as it will loose its crispiness in the fridge. The tofu should last about 3-5 days.

helpful kitchen tools

still hungry?

Check out these other tasty tofu recipes!

If you try out this smoky tofu, don’t forget to tag me in your photos on instagram @ellielikes.cooking and/or leave a comment down below and let me know how you liked it! I love seeing you recreate my recipes in your own kitchen 🙂 Happy cooking!

Air-Fried Smoky Tofu

Firm tofu marinated in a savory, smoky sauce and air-fried to crispy perfection. Healthy, gluten-free, 9 ingredients, and packed with plant-based protein!
Prep Time1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Vegan
Servings: 3

Ingredients

  • 1 14 oz block firm tofu
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 garlic clove grated
  • 1 tbsp grated onion
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari for gluten-free
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • pinch of red pepper flakes optional

Instructions

  • Press the tofu to remove excess moisture. You can either use a tofu press, or create a makeshift tofu press*. Cut tofu into cubes or strips. Place tofu in a deep dish or ziplock bag for marinating.
  • Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over tofu. Let the tofu marinate at least 1 hour, and flip/gently shake the tofu halfway through to coat all sides.
  • When you're ready to cook the tofu, preheat your air fryer to 350°F and cook 10-15 minutes, shaking halfway through, until crispy and golden.

Notes

*See the section above titled “how to press tofu”. 

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